Monthly Archives: March 2009

Spring spirit

I am so high on spring. I can’t sleep. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking things like: “I should build a goat pen in the lot” or “tomorrow I need to plant some corn”. My To Do list is long and includes actions that are so physically challenging, I would die if I actually did them all.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining—I love this springtime high. And I know I’m not alone. Proof came on Friday when I attended the Compost Giveaway in Berkeley. Every last Friday of the month the City of Berkeley gives away whole pick-ups full of rich, dark, lovely finished compost. All you do is bring your truck, wait in line, and then get a scoop of soil from a bulldozer.
guyinchargeandtrucksI arrived at 8:45 and so did everyone else. Truck after truck after truck, all in a line. Even my friend Willow arrived in her big red bomber truck. First we talked on the phone, then we realized the line was moving very slowly. She came over to my truck. “I’ve never seen so many people here!” she said. The guy in the khakis and buttondown shirt managing the people told us he had never seen anything like the line before either. The fat, cigarette smoking cop looked like he was going to have a heart attack. Did he expect a riot?

I realized that this pack of compost hungry people was tangible evidence of a.) spring and b.) the huge increase in gardening, perhaps during a recession. There were ghetto trucks (mine), sleek trucks with Biblical verse written on it, and rental trucks. There were young people and old people, a guy wearing overalls and a matching child wearing overalls. There were community gardeners, professional landscapers, scroungers, and urban farmers. Everyone likes free soil.
If you didn’t have a truck, there were two smaller piles of compost and wood chips off to the side for people who couldn’t take a load from the bulldozer. These people had shovels and buckets and galvanized laundry buckets, and other weird receptacles to scoop up the black gold. I loved seeing the enthusiasm of all these people. Working so hard so that their plants would thrive. I wondered what their gardens looked like, what they were growing, how they grow stuff. Seeing the people swarming around these piles made me so proud of us. Us humans. We do so many horrible things, but when we garden, we are beautiful.


In the end, I waited about 40 minutes to get my free soil. Was it worth it? I can’t say just by looking at it, but the soil looks beautiful. It comes from the green bins, municipal compost picked up in the East Bay, turned into compost, and then returned to the people. What a lovely cycle.

Thanks for the tip Oliver!

-Every last Friday of the month is free compost give away at the Berkeley Marina, near the Adventure Playground on the South side of the marina.

Happy Birthday Orla

Well, almost. Orla May was born March 17, 2008 at Ghosttown Farm. I still haven’t sent in her registeration with the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association, even though I have the paperwork filled out. Bad goat owner!

Here’s Orla at two hours old. So adorable. So perfect. So new.


This was why it nearly broke my heart when I had to take her to the vet in order to get her horn buds fried off. She and her sister both made sad bleating noises when the vet held the iron up to their tiny hornlets. Thank goodness she doesn’t have horns now that’s she’s a sassy one year old who definitely looks for trouble and is the most stubborn goat ever (next after her mom Bebe, that is). None of the neighborhood kids have gotten their eye gouged out by a toss of her head, for example. Looking back on it, I’m proud that I had them disbudded even though it was a tough decision and it wasn’t so attractive….

A year later, I find myself becoming more and more nervous because Orla is going to become a mother now. It does seem soon, doesn’t it? Only a year old and having babies? Goats are natural mothers, though, and this early pregnancy is normal. She doesn’t look worried.

I, on the other hand, am a nervous wreck. It’s two months before Orla and Bebe will give birth to their kids. Since the last 8 weeks are critical, there’s so much to do. Yet there is no book (yet) called: What to Expect When Your Goat is Expecting. To that end, I’ve been reading all these websites about goat pregnancy and kidding. But I hate the internet. There’s too much information! All those injections seem wrong and freak me out. I’m frantically looking up selenium deficiencies and contemplating a copper bolus injection. I just read that I need to start giving the goats more grain, probably twice a day, with more alfalfa hay to increase their calcium and phosphorous levels. I’ll have to decide whether I’m going to bottle-feed or go natural. I’m leaning toward bottle feeding them myself. But I need to get Bill used to the idea of three plus goatlings in our apartment.

Aside from the dizzying information glut and my nervous nightmares, goat babies might be just like human babies. Because the amazing thing is: the stress is all worth it when they join us here on this Earth. goatlegs

Triamble: A Love Story

I once worked for a certain professor who used to get tons of food-related books in the mail. One of the books was the Compleat Squash by Amy Goldman. “Do you want this?” he said one day when we were cleaning out his office bookshelves. I opened up the book. A few pages into it, I knew what it was: pumpkin porn. “Hell, yeah,” I said and took it home.

That night I looked through each of the glossy pages, skimmed the text, with growing awe of the author, whose obsession with pumpkins and gourds and squash has led to a pumpkin curing barn, for example. I found myself staring at a blue-colored cucurbita maxima called Triamble. It’s one of Goldman’s favorites (and she is harsh on some of my favorites). “I adore Triamble for every reason in the book,” she writes, “… with the dense abundant flesh (there’s no hole or seed cavity, in these pumpkins) are about the most highly evolved pumpkins on the planet.”

It’s called Triamble because they have three triangular lobes. I had grown some of the squash in the book: Galeuse d’ Eysines (warty and wonderful but also watery). Blue Hubbard (yum). Rogue vif d’Estampes (the Cinderella pumpkin). Kabocha. Turk’s Turban. Butternut. Acorn. And then, I decided, I would grow Triamble.

First I had to find the seeds. I looked all over and finally saw them in the Seed Savers catalog. Since I knew I wanted to save the seeds, I planted only one c. maxima variety–the Triamble. It didn’t stop me from planting other cucurbits–I grew a Thelma Sanders, which is a c. pepo and thus wouldn’t cross pollinate with the maxima.

The Triamble plant sprouted and ran wild around the garden. Sprawling, sprawling. It is an ambitious squash. I got a fair number of small triangular fruits. They looked like pieces of art in the garden, blue against the green foliage, that wadded up shape that my friend David said looked like a piece of chewing gum. I managed to pull about 15 fruit off the plant–one was very large and had, somehow, four lobes–and let them sit in my kitchen on top of the fridge to cure.
I ended up giving many of them away to friends as art objects, door stops, gourd-y decor. And then, I started to cook them. Inside, they are strikingly orange. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to cut in half. The skin was brittle but not like armor like some squash I’ve met before.
So far I’ve made soup, curry, pumpkin bread, donuts (yes!), and pumpkin pie from the lovely Triamble. The flesh is outstandingly dry, dense, and like Goldman promised, abundant.

I’d like to share the abundance–I saved some seeds from the biggest Triamble. If you’d like me to send you some, send me your mailing address (novellacarpenter at yahoo dot com), or come by to pick them up on the farm tour this Saturday, 10am-12.

Update: i’ve gotten your requests and i’ll send seeds to you all this weekend! also, someone said the email didn’t work–try novellacarpenter (at) gmail dot com